Other animals (let's not forget that we are also animals) are used as resources to provide materials for our clothing. Sheep and cows are bred and slaughtered; foxes, mink and rabbits caged and killed, wild animals shot or trapped, to make clothes and shoes from their skin and fur. All animals (human or not) need to protect themselves from the elements, but this doesn't provide justification for depriving another animal of his or her freedom and life, especially when there are so many animal-free alternatives available to us.
Many of us have seen shocking images of foxes or minks suffering in cages on fur farms or being gassed, electrocuted or skinned alive. As a result many people now reject fur. However, leather and sheepskin continue to be in high demand. Rarely do we question the fact that leather and sheepskin are also the skin of an animal, which has been tanned and treated with a cocktail of chemicals to avoid decomposition and obtain the desired colour. While many people would think twice before wearing fur, they make an exception for leather or sheepskin because it is usually thought to be a 'by-product' of the meat industry. In reality, they are far from being by-products: paying for leather and sheepskin adds substantially to the slaughterhouse value of the dead animal and financially supports the meat industry. The multimillion pound leather industry is such big business it would sustain itself even if the meat industry were to end tomorrow.
See inside a cow slaughterhouse, filmed by Animal Equality investigators:
During 'fur' production a significant number of animals, whether raised in cages on fur farms or trapped in the wild, are skinned alive. Approximately 35 animals are killed and skinned to make a single coat and the 'fur' industry currently kills around 30 million animals a year. The use of fur is now widely rejected due to raised public awareness of the misery suffered by animals on fur farms, and their agonising deaths: by gassing, electrocution or being simply skinned alive. However, we need to apply those same arguments for the rejection of any item of clothing made from animal skin or hair, such as leather and wool, since every case involves an individual sentient being's exploitation.
Watch Animal Equality's mink farm investigation in Spain (2010):
Wool is an animal product which is widely consumed and seldom questioned, in spite of the large amount of suffering involved in the raising and exploitation of sheep for wool production. Wool consists of a fine, long and elastic protein called keratin. Before we began exploiting sheep, they used to produce only enough wool to protect themselves from the cold, as wild sheep do not need shearing. However, domestic sheep today have been selectively bred to produce more wool than is natural. This selective breeding has resulted in a multitude of illnesses related to their excessive amount of hair, such as deaths from overheating and flystrike and as well as the pain caused to them during shearing. Workers immobilise sheep during shearing in order to obtain every possible inch of wool from their bodies, ignoring any stress or injuries they suffer as a result. Sheep are individuals with their own interests and desires, not producers of scarves, jumpers, gloves and coats.
See inside a sheep slaughterhouse, filmed by Animal Equality investigators:
Alternatives These days there is an endless supply of clothes which aren’t made from animals. It's easy to buy products such as shoes, jackets, jumpers and scarves made from synthetic materials or natural plant fibres such as cotton, hemp or linen. Increasingly, synthetic materials are being recycled with companies now selling clothes, shoes and bags made out of recycled plastic bottles.